Education & Family

Ministers accused of 'retreat on education manifesto'

Angela Rayner Image copyright Getty Images

The government is being accused of being "in full-scale retreat from their own manifesto" promises on education.

Labour's Angela Rayner's accusation comes after ministers said they were "reflecting" on the plan to scrap free lunches in favour of free breakfasts.

On funding, the schools minister said: "The government has committed to increase the school budget further."

But Nick Gibb failed to restate the election-campaign promise of an extra £1bn to bolster school budgets.

Costing

Shadow education secretary Ms Rayner and her team tabled more than 100 written parliamentary questions, asking about each education pledge in the Conservative manifesto.

Scrapping the free school meals currently offered to all infant pupils was to save the government £650m.

Also in the manifesto, the government pledged to introduce free breakfasts for all primary school children - but academics queried the costing and the likely take-up of the planned offer.

Responding to Ms Rayner's written question on the current state of the policy, Children's Minister Robert Goodwill wrote: "We are reflecting on our programmes in relation to school meals and will come forward with proposals in due course."

Fight

And, on Monday, responding to Mr Goodwill's written answer, Ms Rayner said: "The admission, slipped out in a written answer, that their flagship education policy may be abandoned before it is even launched is just the latest sign that Theresa May's ministers are now in full-scale retreat from their own manifesto.

"They need to end the confusion by explaining to the public and Parliament what their education policy actually is.

"If they still think they can snatch the food from our children's mouths, then we will fight them all of the way."

Responding to another of the written questions, on the manifesto commitment to review school admissions policy, the government said simply that it "routinely keep[s] the admissions system under review".

The latest parliamentary answers come after Education Secretary Justine Greening confirmed, in an earlier written statement, the government was abandoning its plans for a new wave of grammar schools.

It is thought the controversial policy was unlikely to get a majority in the House of Commons.

The Department for Education said: "This government is focused on delivering higher standards in education.

"In the last Parliament alone, three Acts were passed to deliver bold new reforms across technical education, our universities and children's social care.

"There are 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010, and more young and disadvantaged people are going to university than ever before.

"As the Queen's Speech made clear, this work will continue to ensure every child has the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them."

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